40 Tips + Tricks for Traveling to Europe
Ever since my 15 day adventure to Europe, I get asked questions all the time! About traveling, skincare, outfits, trains, planes, you name it. I have compiled a list of my top tips from traveling. I grew up traveling and travel frequently, so some of these are just second nature, and some I have learned along the way. Enjoy, and happy traveling! :)
start packing a week in advance
Start packing in advance, and plan out every outfit, etc. Set everything out, and pack it all up to make sure it fits. Talk to who you are traveling with and make sure you have everything, and coordinate. When I traveled with my friend earlier this year, we only brought one hair dryer, straighter, curling iron, etc. I also got a bunch of gallon zip lock bags and used them for different things. One had my underwear, one had my chargers/tech accessories, one had my hair accessories, etc. They aren’t pretty but they take up the least space and keep everything organized. Also, packing cubes. These keep everything organized.
don’t over pack
I am guilty of this every single time I travel. Truly. But do not overpack. Plan out your outfits, and make sure to look at the weather in advance. Don’t bring 6 jackets, only bring 1 (maybe two). Do not pack that dress you have never worn and kinda hate but you might wear it, because believe me, you will not. There is no need for 5 pairs of jeans, just bring one (your favorite). I brought a backpack, carry on suitcase, and a medium sized suitcase. I wouldn’t say I over packed because I almost wore everything. But I also did shop A LOT, so some of what I brought wasn’t worn because I wanted to wear my new clothes instead. If you plan on shopping, keep this in mind.
wear a comfortable plane outfit
I get it, you want to look cute. But when you have a 9+ hour flight you need to be comfortable. I always wear a comfy white tee, leggings, sneakers, and a comfortable jacket or hoodie. My flight this year was so cold everyone on the plane was complaining and I felt like I was in a freezer. No joke. The flight attendant gave me 2 blankets, and with my whole outfit on, I was still shivering the whole time. Always prepare and wear layers, you can always take off a jacket, but if you wear too little, you will be cold.
pack a carryon
Make sure you have enough items on your carry on to last you a day if you luggage gets lost. It’s also helpful to have a bag of toiletries with you. You never know if you spill a coffee on yourself before your 9 hour flight and you want to change. Or if you need to brush your teeth. Always make sure you have everything in travel size or under 3.5 oz. Things I recommend bringing in your carry on:
Toothbrush + toothpaste
Makeup wipes/baby wipes (I never fly with makeup on, and a baby wipe can wipe down your seat, etc)
Extra outfit (pants, shirt, underwear)
Medicine (I always packing Advil and Advil PM to help me sleep)
Hand cream (or some type of lotion)
Headphones (I hate the ones provided on planes)
Water bottle (bring an empty reusable and after you get through security, fill it up and stay hydrated)
Chapstick (my lips get SO dry when I fly or travel, this is always a necessity)
get a travel credit card
This isn’t a huge deal, but when you go out of the country for 2 weeks and use your card daily, the foreign transaction fees can add up majorly. Find a credit card that has 0 foreign fees, and if you are unsure if your current credit card offers this, just call and ask! Also, always bring multiple debit/credit cards with you just in case one does not work or you lose it, etc. My friend brought her AMEX with her and a lot of places did not accept it, so always keep that in mind.
make sure your passport is updated
This is obvious, but trust me. If it expires around the time of your trip, you need to get an updated one. Some countries won’t accept a passport if it expires within the next 6 months. Also, do not bring it with you when you are out for the day, always leave it in your hotel/airbnb locked up or hidden. And bring a photocopy with you if you need to.
make photocopies of important documents
Speaking of photocopies, make photocopies of ALL documents. Or email them to yourself so you can access or print them! Examples: ID, passport, flight confirmations, hotel confirmations, train tickets, bus tickets, itineraries, etc.
make a list & research
Wherever you are traveling, research research research. Google the city. Look on Pinterest. Stalk bloggers who traveled where you are going and see what they did, or look up the city location on Instagram and get inspired. Compile a list of the top places you want to visit, and what you want to make a priority. The worst thing is waking up in a new city and spending an hour looking up local things to do, it is time wasted. Arrive with a plan. While I do not plan out every second of my day of my travels, I always have a list of *top* things I want to do, and I then I plan my day around that part of town. One of my favorite parts of traveling is walking around and discovering new things to do or coming across something completely my chance. So don’t plan too much.
book everything in advance
Things sell out. Things are cheaper online, and sometimes you get a coupon code. Things are cheaper ahead of time. And most touristy places have a huge line out front to buy tickets. When you buy in advance, you are prepared and have a time slot. This can be a train ticket, plane ticket, or tourist attraction. Always book ahead!
plan out your train + buses
I urge you to plan out your train and buses you are getting on. Map out where you are staying and the closest train or bus near you. Always take the high speed train, even if it’s more money, it’s worth it to not spend a few extra hours on a train. Also, always validate your ticket while boarding. If you do not and you get caught, you can get arrested or seriously fined.
go on a pub crawl
This is something I did not expect, but in foreign countries pub crawls are huge for tourists. You will meet a bunch of people who just want to hang out and drink. These were some of the BEST nights I had in Europe. We met so many people from so many countries and it was a blast. It’s usually $20 and it includes entry to a few bars, and a drink in each one. It’s a great deal and you won’t regret it!
wake up early
Kickstart your day early and you will be surprised how much you can get done when you wake up at 7am! Head to major tourist attractions early in the day, they get overcrowded and it also can get very hot in the summer in the middle of the day. You obviously won’t wake up early everyday because you are on vacation, and you may have gone out the night before. But choose a few days on your trip to wake up early and head out the door. It’s worth it.
download google maps
This is HUGE. I had my phone turned off majority of the time, so this helped a ton. When you are on wifi, go to Google maps and download the city you are in for offline maps. This way you can look for things offline, or if service is bad, it always works. Thank me later.
Not everything is on time - our buses were late majority of the time. We missed on train because our bus was late and we decided way too late to get an Uber. Always overestimate time and go early for important things like your train or flight.
bring a backpack
When leaving for an entire day, I recommend a backpack. There are SO many cute options out there, so it doesn’t have to be ugly. This helps so much when you are away from your hotel for 12+ hours walking around. You can pack snacks, medicine, water, etc. When I would buy something, I could put it in my backpack and didn’t have to carry it around all day.
Nobody likes a sunburn, and it can you ruin your experience if you get a horrible one. Also, yes, you can get a sunburn on a cloudy day. I also brought a big floppy straw hat and wore it majority of the time to protect my face!
In Europe, the tip is included in your meal. This means you don’t have to worry about it, but it’s always nice to leave a little extra (if service was good). This also means the service isn’t as fast as it is in the US. If you are in a hurry, order your food and the check together. This is something to know - I can’t tell you how many times we had to go find our server because we wanted to leave! This is very normal though, Europeans enjoy dinner and will spend hours hanging out at a restaurant.
talk to the locals
This is my favorite thing to do no matter where I am traveling to. Talk to the locals, they know best! They will give you great tips and recommendations that you won’t find on a blogpost or Google. This is how we found an awesome speakeasy in Rome!
buy an adapter (OR TWO)
The outlets in Europe are different than in the US, so make sure to get an adapter. I also recommend a power strip. There would be times that I needed to curl my hair, charge my phone, charge my camera battery, etc, all at the same time. I wish I had brought a power strip! Also, watch out for the voltage capacity. I do not know how we didn’t burn down our Airbnbs with our hair dryer and curling iron, we did not research correctly… you should do that.
make an itinerary + share with family
This helped out so much. Especially because we traveled to 4 cities, that means 4 different Airbnbs, 4 different ways of transportation, etc. We made a day-to-day itinerary of where we would be, where we were staying, and what we wanted to do that day. It helped out a ton, and it also helped split the cost of everything and have a detailed document of every charge. And share this with your family! If something happens or there is an emergency, they will know where you are + what you are doing.
get your travel partner’s information
If traveling with someone, or multiple people, always get their information. ID, travel insurance, passport, etc. Have them email you photocopies. If something happens, you need to be able to have their information.
learn the basic language
Just the basics “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, “how much”, “I’ll have a spritz”… you know, the necessities. It always helps. Google translate also helps with this if you have something specific you need to ask.
track your spending
Not every day, because that sounds exhausting. But check your bank account every once in awhile to make sure you are on track for your budget. I went out one day and spent a few hundred and didn’t even realize until I checked. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and shopping can add up fast.
accept that you will not see everything
Traveling is awesome and you will see some amazing things, but you will not see everything. Accept this now so you aren’t disappointed. Every city we went to I wanted to see 100 things, and it just won’t happen. Things happen, they cost money, etc.
don’t always listen to reviews
Yes, they are helpful. But sometimes they can scare you away from something. If you really want to do something or go somewhere, just try it yourself. Reviews can be skeptical from time to time, good and bad.
buy tsa approved locks
This isn’t exactly needed, but when I had a giant suitcase traveling the world without me, and there was a chance of it getting lost, having a lock on it made me feel better. The lock also came in handy at a hostel I stayed at and I could lock my items in the locker (getting a lock there was an additional fee). Also, make sure it is TSA approved or they will make you take it off before checking your bag. Buy this one!
This is another MUST. It’s amazing how many people don’t do this. This helps from the smallest cold, to a horrible accident. Your health insurance doesn’t work anywhere but the US. Travel insurance is cheap and will cover everything. Health issues, delayed flights, lost luggage, trip cancellation, etc. If something happens and you don’t have travel insurance you could spend thousands out of pocket.
water is not free
Most restaurants do not give you free water. Know this before you order. And ask for tap or bottle, or they’ll bring you sparkling.
need wifi? go to a chain restaurant
If you need to get on wifi ASAP, just go to the local McDonald’s or Starbuck’s. They always have wifi.
always have cash with you
A lot of places in Europe are cash only or have a minimum amount. So when you want to buy a postcard or a cappuccino, make sure you have cash. I always kept around 50 euros cash on me at all times.
bring extra money
You probably saved a certain amount for your trip, but always overestimate. Bring extra that you don’t plan on using. You never know if you need to book a different hotel, or train, or plane, etc.
keep your valuables with you
If you are on a beach, or in a restaurant, bring your bag with you when you get up. Purses get stolen all the time from beaches, parks, and the back of chairs in restaurants. When boarding a train or in a crowd, turn your backpack around so nobody can unzip it and steal what’s inside. Always keep your valuables with you and you won’t have to worry about it getting stolen.
I completely understand wanting to wear the cutest shoe, or newest trend, but when you walk around Rome and average 10 miles a day, you must be comfy. Wear something you can walk around all day in, or make sure you put comfy shoes in your bag to change into.
buy a souvenir when you see it
I wish I knew this when I traveled. I would see something, and always think “oh, I can get this later”, well let me tell you, 9 times out of 10 you will not. And then you will regret it. If you see something you want, or see a cool postcard, buy it right then and there. I promise.
Be safe + BE SMART
This goes without saying, but be smart. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If someone asks to help with your bags, say no. These people will force you to pay since they helped, or worse, steal your luggage. Always negotiate with taxis before getting into them, or they will overcharge you. There are a lot of tips like this, but at the end of the day, just be smart and you’ll be fine.
drink the house wine
In the US, I feel like house wine has a bad reputation. In Europe, it’s always amazing, and usually very cheap. Always choose the house wine, especially if on a budget. And there is usually a story behind it, the owner makes it himself or it is in the family!
avoid restaurants with pictures of food
These restaurants are usually touristy and overpriced. And the food isn’t that good. Find a hole in the wall restaurant, they are always the best. Also, the smaller the menu, the better the food.
eat away from major touristy areas
Around huge tourist attractions there is always a million restaurants, stray away from these. Walk a few blocks away from the madness and find a better restaurant. It’s usually cheaper and yummier.
don’t listen to other people
I can’t tell you how many people tried to give me advice on traveling to Europe and what you are “supposed to do”. The top one: nobody in Italy drinks coffee/cappuccinos after noon, and if you do you will stick out and look dumb. Well let me tell you, I had multiple cappuccinos after noon and I did not give a flying f*ck. If I was hungover or tired, I drank one. The coffee shops are open, and nobody cared. Except for one man at a lunch who told me I was supposed to drink my espresso after lunch, not during or before. I told him I was tired and DID NOT CARE. Long story short, always be respectful, and advice is nice if you ask for it, but these stupid rules are dumb and don’t let that stop you from drinking a damn cappuccino at 6pm if your heart desires.
My last travel tip is to unplug. Traveling is such a fun thing, and you can take pictures with your phone on airplane mode so there is no excuse. You can even take Snapchats and post them later. Turning your phone off and taking in everything around you is truly an amazing experience. Going to dinner outside in Italy without a phone is so relaxing, you take in the views, the smells (of flowers + pasta), people watch, have a conversation with whomever you are traveling with, etc. I did turn on my international data for Verizon - which is $12/day when I turn my phone on. I only did this about half the time. When I was bored, on a train, or when I was separated with who I was with. I highly recommend this.